Washington Update - August 30, 2021

Billy Moore    Dc2

A mostly negative August is contributing to an erosion of President Joe Biden’s approval rating. Well managed events in the next several weeks could improve his standing but mismanagement could drive his approval lower.

A month ago, President Biden’s job performance was rated positively by 52 percent of voters; this approval rating has declined to 47 percent today, most likely because of events related to Afghanistan and the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the U.S. will conclude its 20-year war in Afghanistan. Americans agree with ending the war but the Afghan government’s premature collapse botched the Pentagon’s exit plans. President Biden took responsibility for the lethal attack by ISIS-K, killing 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, and for the evacuation of more than 117,000 from the country. Congressional Republicans responded with demands that President Biden resign, which won’t happen.

In the last two months, coronavirus infections have risen from an average of 12,000 to 156,000 a day, with the largest increases in Southern states whose governors oppose mask and vaccination mandates the President supports.

Last Tuesday, the House voted to pass the Senate’s budget plan unlocking procedures needed to pass a partisan reconciliation package spending up to $3.5 trillion later this fall and scheduling a September 27 vote on a bipartisan $1.3 trillion infrastructure package. It also passed legislation to restore elements of the Voting Rights Act debilitated by the Supreme Court. 

The President’s standing could improve with the September House vote on the infrastructure bill, possibly clearing it for his signature and the later votes on reconciliation. Between the two, congressional Democrats will need to pass legislation pairing a debt limit increase with a continuing appropriations bill. While success would not help the President, failure would tarnish him with a debt default and a government shutdown.